Best MURS Radios | Simple Two-Way Utility

by Vern Evans

Once part of the business band frequencies, MURS channels were opened up for non-business and industrial use in the early 2000s. As you would expect, many changes in the radio world happen slowly so you’ll still see many businesses like WalMart and Costco, as well as industrial sites using MURS channels. But, you can also use them yourself without a license and with the correct equipment. There are a few brands, models, and types of MURS radios to consider.

This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best MURS radios, compared them, and now the results are in: the overall best, a base station option, and an alarm option. If you need a less-common transmitter for local communication or utility use, one of our picks will keep you up to speed.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


The Best MURS Radio

Retevis RB17V

Inexpensive, Portable, and Effective

Retevis shines with their handhelds, giving us unbeatable value on the less crowded MURS frequencies.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

With limited channels and mostly business, farm, and industrial use- MURS frequencies aren’t exactly crowded. This makes your options limited, but Retevis has conquered the niche. Their radios give value out of the box with their robust build, easy-to-use operation, and unbeatable price.

They also only work with other Retevis radios, but you can change that with the free firmware update if you choose to. Many choose not to, because it operates as if it was on its own privacy code, filtering out the already sparse chatter from users of other brands.

Here is everything you get with these radios:

  • 2 handheld transmitters
  • 3.7V, 2W output
  • Simple 2-button operation, removable antenna
  • 5-channel, PC-programmable
  • 4,400mAh lithium-ion battery, USB-C charge port
  • 1.3″ D x 2.0″ W x 4.3″ H (without antenna)
  • 4.2 ounces

With an unbeatable price and simple operation, it’s easy to see why the Retevis RB17V MURS Handheld Two-Ways tops the rest.


MURS Base Station

Dakota Alert M538

Full-Featured, Simple, and Effective

An inexpensive, reliable base station for when you don’t need mobility or want to worry about batteries.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

A base station is your in-place choice for radio comms, regardless of the frequency or channel range. MURS base stations are few and far between, but we get a good one out of Dakota Alert with plenty of features but simple operation. With loud volume control and a long (or removable/extendable) antenna, you get everything you need to cover a large radius.

Here are the base specs:

  • 28V, 2W output
  • 5 channel, 38 privacy codes
  • 5″ L x 5″ W x 3″ H (without antenna)
  • 1.0 pound

If you are looking at setting up a MURS base station, the Dakota Alert M538 Base Station Transceiver is the best pick.


MURS Alarm

Dakota Alert Motion Sensor

Easy to Use, Versatile, and Reliable

This robust sensor can be tucked away to give you notice of any movement on your entire MURS network.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

“AZ ONE” is what you hear over the selected MURS channel when this easy-to-setup alert system is triggered. You can alternate through four zones, as it is meant to be expandable to cover a perimeter. The waterproof casing and heavy-duty sensor work well in inclement weather to identify people, vehicles, and large animals.

Here is how it stacks up:

  • 80′ PIR sensor
  • 5 channel, 38 privacy codes
  • 6 AA batteries
  • 4.75″ L x 4.75″ W x 6.75″ H
  • 8.0 ounces

If you are looking for a reliable MURS alert system, the Dakota Alert MURS Transmitter Motion Alarm is the best option.


Everything We Recommend

Retevis RB17V

Retevis shines with their handhelds, giving us unbeatable value on the less crowded MURS frequencies.

Where to Buy

$50* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Dakota Alert M538

An inexpensive, reliable base station for when you don’t need mobility or want to worry about batteries.

Where to Buy

$74* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing


The Radios We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to several brands of MURS radios that we compared: Icom, Motorola, Retevis, Btech, Dakota Alert, Vertex, Radioddity, and more.

You can see our full list of review criteria below in the What to Look For section, with an explanation for each. MURS is relatively new, as far as radios go, since they needed to be specifically designed and labeled according to the new FCC rules made in 2004.

We’re always looking for new and better gear, so if you have a MURS transmitter that works well in your setup, let us know in the comments. We review most of our tested gear annually so we can try to get it in the next roundup round and see if it will beat out our top picks.


What to Look For

The best MURS radios have a few features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Power/Range
  3. Ease of Use
  4. Size/Weight
  5. Versatility

When you get the right blend of these, you can find the perfect radio for your specific situation. Below, we break down what each of these features means for the transmitters that truly set themselves apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like a radio shouldn’t blow out your entire budget. They come in a wide range of prices that mostly depend on battery capacity and quality.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, even when it comes to communication. It’s better to diversify your spending to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios.

Power & Range

MURS channels/frequencies are limited to 2W, so most radios designed for MURS operate with that lower power. Base stations have limits on how high you can place external antennas, and repeaters are not allowed on the channels- so range can be a limiting factor.

Ease of Use

MURS equipment is extremely simple to use- even more simple than FRS due to the channel and antennae limitations. It matches the wattage limitation, capped at 2 watts.

Some equipment can seem pretty technologically advanced, like base stations, alarms, and paired IoT gear. However, the underlying technology is simple and less complicated than any other radio setup.

Size & Weight

MURS equipment is similar to others in size and weight- a handheld transceiver is mostly the same but it is just programmed and locked down to the specific set of frequencies.

Still, there are a few handheld transceivers to compare, and weight still matters when you are comparing those for a mobile kit.

Versatility

Many people explore versatility with MURS frequencies in security setups, intercoms, and other notification-type configurations. While you can’t use repeaters or high-powered transmissions, it can still be a versatile area to tinker with.


MURS vs. FRS, GMRS, CB, & Ham

MURS, Ham, GMRS, FRS, CB – there are many options when it comes to communicating with radio setups and they are more different than just the frequency/amplitude bands they rely on.

Type Name Mode Channels Max Watts License Test
MURS Multi-Use Radio Service FM 5 2W No No
FRS Family Radio Service (Walkie Talkie) FM 22 2W No No
CB Citizens Band Radio AM 40 4W No No
GMRS General Mobile Radio Service FM FRS+8 50W Yes No
Ham Amateur Radio Any Many 1500W Yes Yes

MURS is one of the few groups of public channels that allow non-licensed use. Previously part of the business band, businesses, industrial outfits, and large farms had to obtain licenses to use the frequencies. This is no longer the case, and the Multi-Use Radio Service has been opened up to the public for a few decades now if you have the proper equipment.

Sure, all of the other options have either more channels or the ability to transmit higher wattage for long-distance communication, but that might not be the ideal solution for your specific need.


Who Needs a MURS Radio?

MURS radios offer a unique solution that is no longer reserved for businesses and industrial sites. Many people use MURS for equipment, exploring IoT interoperability, or as a less-crowded FRS alternative. You do not need a license to use MURS equipment but need specific radios to communicate on the channels unless you have older equipment that is grandfathered in.

As far as survival kits, MURS radios are worth looking into for security features and short-range communication. For utility, some people improve their home security or find other uses at home. For short-range comms, people use them for mobile survival kits in place of traditional walkie-talkies:

As a less common solution, most of the time MURS radios are for niche applications.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best MURS radios are useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical survival experience:

Kosari, A., et al. (2019). MURS Band for LPWAN Applications. IEEE Topical Conference on Wireless Sensors and Sensor Networks; Orlando, FL. (Source)

Moody, J., et al. (2019). Interference Robust Detector-First Near-Zero Power Wake-Up Receiver. IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits. Volume 54. Issue 8. Pages 2149 – 2162. (Source)

Wireless Telecommunications Office. (2017). Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS). Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Mobility Division. (Source)


The Final Word

MURS might not be the largest collection of channels or most common frequencies, but that can have its advantages. Many people looking to create customized solutions or just having a less-crowded walkie-talkie space end up selecting multi-use radio service equipment.

Here are a few other gear reviews and guides our subscribers have found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our review found the Retevis RB17V MURS Two-Way Handhelds to be the best solution given their value, power/range, ease of use, size/weight, and versatility.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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